Giants-Dodgers rivalry sometimes has turned ugly. In San Francisco, few fans forget

SAN FRANCISCO — 

As Giants enthusiasts clad in orange and black began to gather outside Oracle Park Friday, they reflected on the reasons games against the Dodgers. often provoked fist fights, beer throwing and even uglier moments.

“They are just very volatile in Los Angeles,” said Jayni Wong, 57, wearing a mask emblazoned with the Giants’ logo. “It doesn’t take much for a Dodgers’ fan to go off.”

“The average IQ of a Dodgers fan is way less than a Giants fan, ” explained Don Davis, 64, a construction worker. “And they can’t hold their liquor either.”

As the Blue Angels thundered overhead for Fleet Week and white caps scudded across San Francisco Bay during a breezy, sunny afternoon, fans awaiting the first game of the Giants-Dodgers playoff series spoke frankly about the rivalry between the teams since they battled each other in New York decades ago.

Passions between the fans have sometimes turned violent. In 2013, police say a 24-year-old man wearing Dodger blue was stabbed to death amid a fight with Giants fans after a game, five blocks from AT&T Park. That followed a 2011 attack on Brian Stow, a Giants fan who was nearly beaten to death by a pack of Dodgers fans in Los Angeles.

Stow, who was brain damaged and disabled by the attack, has become a legend to Giants fans. Seated in a wheelchair on the field of the Giants stadium at a World Series game in 2014, Stow called out, “Play Ball.

At the Giants’ home opener this season, Stow, his head lined with scars with scars and leaning on a walker, threw out the first pitch. The crowd roared.

“I think hatred is a good word,” said Mike Morales, 60, characterizing the enmity between the Giants and Dodger fans. “It’s as hot a fire as you can get. You can feel the heat.”

Dodger fans, he surmised outside Oracle Park, are “arrogant. Very arrogant. I don’t think I have ever met a Dodger fan that I really liked.”

Although Dodger fans most certainly lurked about on Friday afternoon, the blue was nowhere to be seen among the throngs at Oracle Park in the mid-afternoon, giving San Francisco enthusiasts wide berth to vent not only about the Dodgers but about the city that cheers them.

“I think hatred is a good word. It’s as hot a fire as you can get. You can feel the heat.”

Mike Morales, a 60-year-old San Francisco Giants fan

Matt Davis, 36, who was going to the game with his father, said the rivalry reflected the different cultures of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“L.A. is glitzy and glamorous, and San Francisco is more laid back and not in your face, ” he said. “L.A. is more about vanity and being seen. They show up late to the games and leave early and boo their own team.”

In case anyone wondered, his dad wanted to make one point clear. “We hate the Dodgers,” Don Davis interjected.

Some have viewed the rivalry as a sign of San Francisco’s insecurity as L.A. grew into a commanding metropolis with a thriving entertainment industry and a nationally noted restaurant and music scene that the city by the bay had once overshadowed.

For a while, “L.A. was on top,” conceded Edwin Cortez, 57, a retired recreational specialist. “But we came into our own with the birth of Silicon Valley.”

Some Giants aficionados insisted the rivalry was all in fun. They said they had good friends who cheered the Dodgers, and aside from a little ribbing, they respected and valued each other.

Nicole Coleman, 33, an administrator who drove in from Modesto for the game, said both Giants and Dodgers fans were equally belligerent at times. They both want to win and they both love their teams, she said.

Still, she felt compelled to point out one difference.

“I feel like Giants fans are classier,” she said.

San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Scott Ostler remarked on the strange imbalance in the civic rivalry, in which the bulk of the animus flows from north to south. It’s been this way as long as anyone can remember, says Ostler, who grew up in L.A. and previously wrote for The Times.

“The weird thing is that San Francisco has kind of a small-town mentality, maybe a provincialism,” Ostler said in an interview. “And I never understood it because I grew up in Southern California and spent decades there. I never knew anyone who said they hated the Bay Area or San Francisco. It’s really kind of a strange, one-way street.”

Angelenos have heard all the taunts about their traffic, smog and other problems and they just slough off the barbs, Ostler said.

“You can’t piss Los Angeles people off by talking bad about their town, because they know it’s not perfect, but they still love it,” said the columnist, who has covered all of San Francisco’s big league teams in his 30 years at the Chronicle.

“It doesn’t work both ways, though. If you were to come to San Francisco and say something bad they would say, ‘You can’t talk that way about our town!’ I’ve never completely understood it. It’s a weird phenomenon.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who grew up in the suburbs 15 minutes from old Candlestick Park, said he has friends on both sides of the Giants/Dodgers divide. He thinks most of them have the rivalry in perspective, but relish the good-natured ribbing they deliver each other.

“We need more fun and diversions right now, more reasons to connect,” Steinberg said. “The Giants-Dodgers rivalry gives us all that. So may the best team win.”

He paused: “But it had better be the Giants.”

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